"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated"; An explanation for my prolonged absence from blogging
Title quote attributed to Mark Twain.
Save for witness updates, I haven't posted for a while. I feel I owe my followers an explanation. No, I haven't left SteemIt for greener pastures. In fact, I've been spending even more time on Steem related projects, but I'm not yet ready to announce them. In terms of non-developmental posts, there are a confluence of motivators which have prevented me from posting as regularly as I had been during my peak. For the sake of brevity I'll focus on the big one:
Header image source: Flickr user Rebecca Barray.
1) Hard-Fork 14:
This update will be a game-changer. Now, there are quite a few inherent assumptions made by me in expressing this sentiment. To understand why I say that, I'll need to backtrack a little, and explain what HF14 is.
Hard-fork 14, which will go live a little under a week from now, brings with it a few changes to Steem. Of greatest interest to me, as a blogger, is the reduction of the voting target from 40 to 5. In effect, this makes an individual vote EIGHT times more valuable. There's a cost to that extreme increase in voting power, however, and that cost is unfortunately that the voter's effective rewards per vote diminish eight times more rapidly. Hence the term voting target; by voting consistently at the target rate daily, the voter should not worry about diminished vote power. The practical motivation for this is to allow less active curators - who are assumed to outnumber the consistent voting bots - to only go through their feeds once or twice a day, upvote their 5 or so carefully reviewed favorite articles, and not have to worry about wasting their voting potential because they can't spend more time on SteemIt each day.
If this change works out as proposed, then it could be a boon for SteemIt. Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict the exact impact of this quite substantial change to the complex system of Steem curation, so it'll be a while after hf14 before we can determine if this change has had positive impact (if we can ever know for sure). That is to say, we'll need to judge the success of this change by the empirical evidence, because it would be impossible to perfectly model the Steem ecosystem. I've already digressed quite a bit from the point of this article, so let me get back to explaining my personal motivations.
I personally believe that I put out quality articles, and have not consistently received fair compensation for those efforts.
I am by no means unique in this regard! There are just too many good writers out there, and I use the term "writers" to describe anyone who has contributed quality content to SteemIt through posts; text-based or otherwise.
Now, there is a bit of hubris packed into that claim. For one, who am I to say that I deserve to be compensated for my writing? That's a fair counter-argument. If my writing is being rewarded fairly every time I post, I really shouldn't be making a lot of my posts. There is an opportunity cost associated with my posts, and my time, and the readers, could be much better spent if this is truly the case.
To give you further context, I spend between 2 and 15 hours per article; between the research, content, editing, and app development (for relevant articles), writing becomes a substantial investment. And those efforts have borne out in terms of various metrics such as followers (I currently have 78, which is quite impressive for a small account which has never gone trending and with only one post in the last 3+ weeks! And I am grateful for each one of them!)
Judging an author's quality by followers alone does not give the full picture. There exist the potential for exploitation if that becomes common practice. There is a solution, though, as you may have already seen, I've put together a website intended to quantify this exact criteria!
Tabulating my values at time of writing, we see that over the past 30 days my median article has received 21.5 upvotes. My best reviewed article has received upwards of 100 votes. This tells me that my writing is liked by a sufficiently large enough group to make continuing worth it for me. In fact, my P-index (as listed on that site) is 13! For someone who only has 20 articles, that's a pretty impressive statistic!
When we transition to looking at my post rewards, on the other hand, the picture becomes bleaker. Brace yourself for this, it's a doozy. My median author rewards over the past month have been 0.08 Steem. That means half of my 20 most recent articles were valued at less than 8 one-hundredths of a Steem! At current rates, that's about 6 cents. Again, keep in mind, that writing has an opportunity cost for me. Keeping motivated is hard in the face of such small compensation.
Does HF14's vote retarget mean there's a rainbow at the end of the tunnel?
Maybe, but it's an open question, as I've alluded to. It's kind of like that physics joke, "assume a spherical cow." Steem doesn't exist in a vacuum; it's impossible to predict the ramifications of even a minor seeming change to the voting economy.
By Nepluno - CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49864076
Having said that, as I've shown, I sometimes receive a lot of upvotes for my articles, but very little reward. Without looking into the voting habits of every account that has voted for me (which could be reasonable in terms of effort required, but may be viewed as too invasive), I expect certain outcomes from this change.
If the smaller accounts who upvote me continue to do so, at full power, I'll receive 8x the rewards. This is no minor increase! I'd go from an 12 cent median total reward to a 96 cent median. While that's still substantially below minimum wage, it'll make me feel better about my writing. And that's only the median article, some of the outliers will become much more handsomely rewarded, in effect subsidizing my general writing when it's not seen by whales.
This of course assumes all of these small accounts only vote 5 times a day as it is, and would continue to judge my writing as they have in the past. Nevertheless, I don't expect to earn less than I have for my writing (in many cases it wouldn't make much difference if I did; not much I can spend that 12 cents on in this economy). So, in terms of effort vs. reward, I think waiting for HF14 is worth doing, even though I have ideas I want to write about.
2) Other reasons
While there are a multitude of other excuses I could give, this article ended up way, way longer than I intended, so I'll leave those excuses up to your imagination, or you can ask about them in the comments if you desire further justification for my lack of written output.